Back when software that would prepare and file your taxes was just a gleam in the internet’s eye, getting tax assistance meant:
1) hiring an expensive tax attorney or CPA, or
2) going to a storefront tax office in a strip mall.
One of the best-known of the tax office chains was—and still is—Liberty Tax. The company was started in Canada in 1997 and opened its first five offices in the USA the following year.
The firm grew rapidly and today is the third largest tax prep franchise in the country with over 4,000 offices.
But since more than one-third of American taxpayers use tax software to prepare and file their returns, it only made sense for Liberty Tax to put its years of tax prep expertise into a computer program.
About eSmart Tax Software
The result of Liberty Tax’s efforts to enter the tax software world is eSmart Tax software, which proudly advertises itself as “Backed by Liberty Tax.”
eSmart is among the top tax software platforms, for good reason.
What Liberty Tax has done is give taxpayers a choice between getting the benefit of its tax expertise through face-to-face meetings or through eSmart Tax’s online interface. Which is pretty smart, if you think about it.
Some people prefer to sit down with a tax preparer and go over the tax forms together. And there’s something to be said for the personal touch, but it comes at a cost.
The average cost for using Liberty Tax to prepare your return is $191, but the cost of filing a federal and state return with itemized deductions through eSmart Tax is only $71.90 ($34.95 for federal returns and $36.95 for state returns).
Better still, eSmart Tax offers free federal tax return prep for people with simple Form-1040 returns. It’s hard to beat free, right? Be aware, though that eSmart still charges people who use the “free” option $29.99 to file a state return.
eSmart Tax has a lot to offer tax filers, from excellent support systems to help customers work through issues to guaranteed maximum refunds. Let’s take a look at some of eSmart’s standout features.
Some people might hesitate to have their taxes done through an app. After all, everyone’s tax situation is a little different and everyone has questions.
Here’s where eSmart Tax’s connection with Liberty really comes into play: they understand the need for customer support. eSmart Tax customers get free chat and email support. It’s accessible through the company website and via Facebook and Twitter—and it’s available from 9 AM to midnight EST January through April and at reduced hours in other months.
Support is even available even for customers who use the “free” plan.
If you still have issues that can’t be resolved online, you can drop into any one of the more than 3,000 Liberty Tax office and receive help in person.
Problems with the installation or operation of the software are addressed by the company’s technical support team via email. The company pledges to respond to tech support requests within 72 hours.
eSmart Tax and the ACA
Some of the biggest and most confusing tax changes this year concern the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its requirements.
eSmart Tax guides taxpayers through the intersection of insurance and taxes and discusses what the recent changes to the law mean for you.
eSmart Has Two Tax Guarantees
eSmart Tax offers customers two guarantees:
- You will receive the largest refund allowed or receive a full refund; and
- All calculations will be done accurately or eSmart Tax will reimburse you for any penalties and interest
These guarantees are very much in line with those offered by the best in the online tax prep industry.
eSmart Tax’s Plans for Simple Returns, Families, Investors, and Business Owners
Like most tax software programs, eSmart comes with a number of versions to benefit tax filers with taxes at varying levels of complexity.
eSmart Tax offers four different plans:
eSmart Tax Free
If you have no dependents and don’t own your home, this option is hard to beat. You get live support and guarantees of the largest allowable refund.
Though there is a charge for state tax returns, the total for people with simple tax situation is still very affordable.
- For people who file a 1040
- No charge for filing a federal tax return
- Free chat and email support
- Previous year’s taxes can be imported
- Affordable Care Act and Earned Income Credit forms
- W2 form import
- State returns cost $29.99
- Best for students and people who have simple returns
eSmart Tax Basic
People who have dependents and who itemize their deductions will want this edition of eSmart Tax. It’s a little more expensive than comparable options from TaxSlayer and other companies, but it’s still a good value for the money.
- 1040 form plus Schedule B for itemized deductions
- Federal return prep costs $34.95
- Depreciation calculator
- Self-employment and business expense reporting
- Tax credits for dependents
- Health Savings Accounts and Long Term Care deductions
- State returns cost $36.95
- Best for families and homeowners
eSmart Tax Deluxe
This edition is aimed at people who have small businesses or investment income. The software prepares the basic schedules that have to be filed by sole proprietors and investors.
At this level, eSmart Tax offers professional tax advice on how to plan your taxes.
- All features of the Basic edition
- 1040 form plus 4562, 8829, and Schedule C (sole proprietor) forms
- Federal return prep costs $45.95
- Reporting of interest and investment income
- Professional tax advice
- State returns cost $36.95
- Best for investors
eSmart Tax Premium
Taxpayers who have real estate investments, have recently sold a home, or who have their own S-corporations will find that they need in this top-of-the-line edition.
- All features of the Deluxe edition
- Schedules B, C, E F, and K-1
- Federal return prep costs $59.95
- Deductions for home offices
- Income from real estate and home sales
- S-Corporation forms
- State returns cost $36.95
- Best for people with real estate transactions and home offices
The Bottom Line
eSmart Tax offers the benefit of Liberty Tax’s years of experience at preparing tax returns, adding to the valuable resources that it offers to customers.
You’ll pay a little more than you will with some of their competitors—but only a little. In addition to having your taxes done, you’ll also receive regular tax planning emails called The Daily Deduction that can help you plan your tax strategy.
The one thing that eSmart Tax doesn’t provide is audit assistance.
As an ordinary taxpayer with a straightforward tax situation, your chances of being audited are very, very small—but people with more complex returns may sleep better by going with a tax service that provides help with audits.